The Dating Game

The "dating game" is an activity designed to help my statistics students understand the concept of a standard deviation.

The standard deviation is one of those tricky concepts that a person can know how to find but they still don't understand what it is or what different standard deviations mean. In this activity, we take the names of the students in the class and analyze how spread out the letters in their names are so that we can visualize the standard deviation. We compare each name to other names and relate the standard deviation to the mean, range, and number of letters in each name.

Traditional Method

The traditional way we do this activity is for me to tell the story behind the activity and then to give the students the activity to perform. The activity itself has the story on it, but I prefer to tell it rather than have them read it from the sheet so that it is more animated.

After distributing the activity sheet, the students will use computer software to find the mean, median, and standard deviation of the letters in their name. We use the Statdisk software that accompanies the Triola statistics text. The book and software are distributed by Addison Wesley, a corporate sponsor of the ICTCM.

Online Method

While the traditional method has all the excitement that the instructor can muster, it does require the students to use another software package to find the statistical values. It also has the limitation that the examples that are shown are limited to the ones that the instructor has worked out and put on the activity.

By designing an online activity, the instructor can take data that the online student supplies and find the values. This allows the online user to find their mean, median, and standard deviation without the need for additional software This has the advantage of personalizing it for the student and perhaps making it more relevant.

Of course, if your goal is to have the student understand the process of finding a standard deviation, then doing it for him/her isn't the most beneficial thing to do. But with some advanced coding, you can illustrate the process for whatever data the student supplies and this can be more helpful than just the one or two limited examples that might be worked in class.

Another advantage of the online method is that you can have hyperlinks to definitions and explanations of concepts if the students need additional help.

Go to James Jones' ICTCM page.